The 2016 thriller movie Nocturnal Animals is one of those rare films that will sear themselves into your memory for the rest of time. It’s sickeningly violent in its portrayal of rape and murder, and the emotional flip-flopping audiences are subjected to each time the movie switches from the world of the novel to the movie’s ‘real world’ is enough to leave viewers confused but intrigued.
Nocturnal Animals is also terribly hard to pick out similar movies for. After all, is it the violence that made Nocturnal Animals so striking? The teeth-grinding stress it subjects us to throughout its run time? The trippy story within a story aspect? So much of the movie is the strange feeling it gives you because of how emotionally raw yet dreamlike, in the confusing Inception (2010 sense of the word, it is.
That’s why we’ve picked out these eight films that are similar to Nocturnal Animals for how emotionally disoriented they’ll leave you.
1. Nightwalker (2014)
How far are you willing to go for fame and fortune? A lot of movies deal with this, but none of them are Nightcrawler. The 2014 film stars Nocturnal Animals star Jake Gyllenhaal as Lou, a photojournalist who prowls the night in search of the most shocking crime scenes so that he can sell his photos and footage to local news stations. His exceptional work earns him the attention of Nina, a director at a news station. The two agree to work together to get Nina the ratings she wants, on the condition that Nina does sexual favors for Lou.
Now obsessed with the wealth his work has given him, Lou starts going to extreme lengths to get even more shocking footage, because what’s surprising today is tomorrow’s old news.
2. The Vanishing (1988)
Like Nocturnal Animals, The Vanishing (1988) is a movie about a couple on a road trip that would have been fun if terrifying things didn’t start happening to them. Saskia and Rex drive out from the Netherlands to go on a romantic vacation in France. Throughout the drive, Saskia keeps telling Rex she’s been having strange dreams of flying through space while trapped inside a golden egg.
The two speculate on what it could mean, especially after Saskia dreams about there being two golden eggs in space. They would have talked about it more in France, if not for Saskia disappearing when they make a stop at a gas station.
Three years later, Rex obsessively investigates the circumstances of Saskia’s disappearance.
3. I’m Thinking of Ending Things (2020)
Based on a novel of the same name, I’m Thinking of Ending Things (2020) is a confusing psychological thriller that unfolds with each new weird thing that happens in the film. Because of the way its story is told, you may have heard wildly differing opinions on the movie already. Honestly, though, if you liked how strange Nocturnal Animals felt, you should give this one a shot because trying to give this film an explanation spoils the whole feeling it induces.
4. The Chaser (2008)
No husbands or boyfriends here, in The Chaser (2008), the obsessive investigator is a pimp who suspects one of his customers has been kidnapping and trafficking his girls. Fortunately for Joong-ho, he has a better shot at succeeding compared to his The Vanishing and Nocturnal Animals counterparts as he was a detective before he became a pimp.
Convinced he has a foolproof plan, Joong-ho sends one of his girls to service the suspect and instructs her to contact him so that he can spy on the guy. When she gets there, however, she realizes there’s no cell service. Oh, and the customer hasn’t been trafficking the girls – he’s been murdering them.
5. A Cure for Wellness (2007)
The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2007) follows a surgeon and his family as they strangely begin to fall ill after the surgeon introduces a young man named Martin to them. Martin seems normal at first, but the surgeon finds himself subjected to sexual advances made by Martin’s mother. Things take a stranger turn when Martin starts being close to the rest of the surgeon’s family, especially his daughter.
6. A Cure for Wellness (2016)
The 2016 film A Cure for Wellness was no critic favorite when it was released and you get the feeling that the movie should have ended a little earlier to keep it as bafflingly eerie as Nocturnal Animals. Still, it’s a fairly enjoyable film with gorgeous shots of the Swiss Alps and the castle it’s set in. A constant feeling of dread hangs over the entire movie, leaving you tense over what’s going to happen to Lockhart.
Lockhart, played by Kill Your Darlings (2013) star Dane DeHaan, is a young executive who’s been sent to a wellness center to look for the company’s absent CEO. When he arrives, he barely gets answers from the center’s staff about where the CEO is and what’s happened to him. To make matters worse, he seems to be coming down with the same illness the CEO had. Truly, it’s terrible luck for his career.
7. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)
If you’ve seen the trailer to Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, you’ve probably been struck by how similar it sounds to the novel in Nocturnal Animals. The movie centers on Mildred Hayes, a grief-stricken mother who hounds the police force of Ebbing, Missouri about their failure to find and arrest the man responsible for the rape and murder of her daughter, Angela.
Enraged at what she sees as the police force’s incompetence, Mildred rents 3 billboards situated along the highway leading to Ebbing that asks the police pointed questions about why they haven’t made an arrest yet.
8. White Tiger (2021)
In White Tiger (2021), a poor driver decides he’s going to rise above to the top of India’s socioeconomic ladder no matter what it takes after it finally clicks for him how utterly cruel and self-centered his wealthy masters are.
Balram clings to a childhood memory of a teacher calling him a “white tiger”, a rarely talented and determined person who’s born only once every century. At first, he thinks the honor of becoming a driver is enough to distinguish himself as a white tiger since being a private driver would be a massive step up from the life he was born into. Balram is happy to serve and even lets himself believe that his wealthy New Yorker masters see him as a real person and a friend.
Until they pin a murder on him.